For my second book of the Royal Reviews Historical Fiction Challenge, I re-read Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George. If my last read was the Elizabeth book, this one is the Mary book.
Just to get my biases out in the open, I am fanatical about the Virgin Queen. If asked, as a teenager I would have called her one of my heroes. And as such, you'd think I might not like Mary (who, after all, did kinda try to murder and dethrone dear Bess), but George really makes her lovable. This is not the vapid Mary of "The Other Queen".
At the same time, without either idolizing or demonizing Elizabeth, by the end of the book it's very clear why history remembers Elizabeth as a royal rockstar and Mary got her head chopped off. Mary is impetuous and so sure that her good intentions will be enough. She trusts people to be as honorable as she is, and--only when it will do her absolutely no good--starts to figure out that they're not. She impulsively marries the wrong man, and then meets the right man at the wrong time, and just...she just never really gets it.
I think everyone has at least one friend that's that kind of girl, right? Fun and smart and pretty and you love-her-to-death, but just not-so-good at making solid, realistic, long-term plans?
It's tragic, of course, but it does make for fabulous reading. And although they're both largely the same story set in different time periods, George's The Memoirs of Cleopatra and Helen of Troy are both also worth checking out. She's also written The Autobiography of Henry VIII, which I didn't like very much, and Mary, Called Magdalene, which I've only read part of, but enjoyed.